City Paper is not for tourists
The vaunted theatrical tradition known as Press Night has for years offered producers a means to tear the Band-Aid of critical opinion free in on mighty, follicle-ripping tug.
All right, you arrogant pricks (they seem to say) let’s get this over with. So on the designated night, we critics dutifully descend on a show en masse, like so many dyspeptic locusts. If locusts were given to cravats and opera capes.
CP’s deadline is Monday, so when, as often happens, a given show presses on Sunday night, I’ll generally ask to see it a day or two earlier. (I take pride — smug, insufferable, downright brown-nosey pride — in always filing on time. Unlike some of my colleagues.)
It’s only a request, and companies don’t have to say yes. If they do, they’re A) doing me a favor and B) taking what they likely view as a risk. After all, the press night doesn’t usually take place until a show’s been running for a few days, to give cast and crew a chance to work out any kinks.
So there’s an implicit — and occasionally explicit — understanding that if a company’s been kind enough to let me in before the presser, and some major glitch occurs, my mentioning said glitch in the review would be, to use the journalistic term, a pretty douchey thing to do.
The team behind Spooky Action Theater’s Beckett Duo, which pressed Sunday before last, let me see it on the preceding Saturday, thus sparing me another bleary, coffee-fueled all-nighter. The review’s here.
I didn’t mention it, but a glitch, and a pretty big one, went down that night. I bring it up here because this ain’t the review, because the actor/glitchee merits a shout-out for handling it smoothly, and because in live theater, glitches happen.
In Krapp’s Last Tape, the elderly Krapp (Carter Jahncke) threads several spools of tape through a giant reel-to-reel tape recorder and experiences a gamut of emotions as he listens to them. The play ends with Krapp letting one such tape run, while the lights fade.
On the night in question, just minutes before the play ends, Jahncke carefully threaded a tape as he had several times before, and hit play.
Nothing. Nada. Zip. No power.
He got up. Checked the cord. Sat down. Hit play again. Nothing. Again. Nothing.
This went on for a bit; the audience started shifting in their seats.
But Jahncke’s a pro: He let out a long, growling, in-character “SHIIIIIITE!” and limped offstage (where, throughout the play, Krapp nips off for a drink or six). There, I assume he told the stage manager to bypass the reel-to-reel’s speaker and just feed the audio through the theater’s sound system. Which is what happened, and things worked out just fine.
There’s a part of me that lives for flop-sweat, seat-shifty moments like that one. I love how simply and purely they connect you to the peformers, to your seatmeats, to the terrible, wonderful “What the fuck do we do now?” here-and-nowness of live theater.
Any DC theatrical cock-ups linger in y’all’s memory? Let’s hear ’em. (They don’t need to have taken place onstage — ask the Post critic who, one fateful Press Night earlier in the year, found a seat in front of one under-the-weather patron of the arts, only to have said patron go full-tilt Mr. Creosote on him, spraying the back of his head with vomit.)